Being pregnant in Sweden means: the going gets tough.
When I, for the first time in my life, became pregnant in 2010, I was nearly 38 years old. Rather old. We had just bought a house, I had a good job, 2 kittens had recently moved in – all that was missing were kids and voilá: the pregnancy test was positive.
I started to do some research on what is going to happen and I found out, that I should call a so called midwife center. I did that and got an appointment booked with midwife S. in week 6 of my pregnancy. That meeting went roughly like this:
S: “Welcome, nice to meet you. How do you know that you are pregnant?”
Me: “I did a test that I bought in the pharmacy and it was positive”
S: “Congratulations! When was your last menstruation?”
I told her the date.
S: “Alright, the calculated date of birth is on 20th of August 2011. You will find all you need to know about nutrition during pregnancy on the website of the Food Safety Authority. Move a lot, sleep a lot, but do not eat more. I will see you again in 6 to 7 weeks. Any questions?”
“Uuuuhhhh ….. ultrasound?”
“To make sure everything is ok?”
“The rate of miscarriage is about 10% in the first third of the pregnancy. We will wait for this period to be over. We do not have the resources to make further examinations during this time, as the risk for miscarriage is so high. Then you will receive an ultrasound examination in week 18, performed by a midwife who is specially trained. That is it. In between you and I are going to meet, I will make some blood tests and I will weigh you every time.”
“OK. So I am not going to meet a doctor during the whole pregnancy?”
“Not, if there are no complications”
“OK. When will maternity leave start?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, how long may I or do I have to work?” (I need to add, that I had a job back then which required massive travelling by car. In Austria, where I am originally from, no pregnant woman is allowed to work after week 32).
“Here in Sweden, we work until the date of birth. But I recommend, you take a holiday two weeks prior to birth date. These weeks can be arduous.”
I was shocked and suddenly, being pregnant did not feel as exciting anymore. I felt left alone. The thought of not meeting a gynecologist scared me. We did the combined ultrasound- and blood test for Down’s Syndrome (also performed by a midwife, but in a private clinic), the risk turned out to be minimal, everything good.
In week 16 I flew to Vienna to meet “my” gynecologist, she examined me thoroughly and she could see that we would be parents to a boy. I left her euphorically – that service, just being able to talk to DOCTOR! On her recommendation I did a so called “organ screening” in week 26 in Vienna. The 3D-ultrasound pictures of Emil were fantastic, but even more important: Everything was OK!
Back in Sweden I got weighed at every visit. I found that rather humiliating, as I had started into the pregnancy with about 15 kg overweight and each new pregnancy kg felt embarrassing. Especially as S. stated after the first weighing, that I actually did not need to go up much at all. In the middle of the pregnancy, when she weighed me again, I sighed: “Oh no, again 2 more kilos.” She just said: “Yes, we do not have any nice scales”.
In total, the care was a joke. As well as the the discussions, that I had with her about a toxoplasmosis screening:
S: “Here in Sweden, we do not do that, because it is not as common.”
“Could you please test me anyways? I am a veterinarian, I have two cats and I love raw meat products. I am pretty sure that I am positive, but I need to know for sure, because otherwise I have to change a few things in my life.”
A lot of moaning and groaning followed: “I have never done this, I do not know how to fill in the forms, this is going to take a while, bla bla bla.” I insisted and a week later I had the following snotty message on my mobile: “The results are here. You are toxoplasmosis positive, isn’t that what you wanted? Call me if you need something”.
The visits were always the same: First I got weighed, then I should tell her how I felt, after that S. listened with a wooden stethoscope to the heartbeat of my baby (sometimes she used a stone aged Doppler machine). After that she measured my belly with a tape measure (from the top edge of my uterus down to the top edge of my pubic bone, to document the growth of my baby. Seriously guys, this is no joke) and in the end I got a new date for the next appointment.
On the 19th of August, one day before calculated date of birth, I had a last booked meeting with S. Emil showed no signs of coming out. S. examined me as usual and said:
“All OK, if he won’t come, I am seeing you again in a week.”
“What? I am rather old, are you sure that is enough? I mean, does the placenta still work well? Should that not be better monitored?”
S., grumpy: “Well then, come again in three days.”
Mercifully, S. met me every third day, until Emil finally was born on the 29th of August 2011 in a hospital in Varberg, Sweden.
But that is a totally different story.